San Diego State University
Especially an English-speaking country was very attractive for me because I wanted to improve my English skills and become more confident in this important world language. That is why I decided to apply for the San Diego State University, California.
After I had been accepted by the local commission of San Diego State University, I had to fill out several forms regarding favorite courses, housing and travel insurance. Another barrier was to get the student visa for a semester abroad in the United States. Therefore I had to request online and finally make an appointment at the American embassy in Frankfurt am Main. After organizing the bureaucracy stuff, I booked my flight to San Diego.
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First of all, I looked through the General Course Catalogue online to see what courses are usually offered and which classes would fit to my study of Human Resources Management:
Management and Organizational Behavior
Human Resource Management
Human Resource Selection
International HR Management
After that, I discussed these possibilities with the local professor responsible for the approval of course decisions. Then I had to wait until my departure to see in which classes I would have to chance to get enrolled.
3. Arrival in San Diego
As the semester in the United States starts in the middle of August, I decided to arrive at the beginning of August – so I would have had enough time to explore the city as well as organizing an apartment, a rental car and the university courses. Unfortunately, it was not possible to stay at a campus residence. That is why I started to search for an apartment myself. I looked on craigslist.com, a rental housing website, which I really recommend for international students only staying for one semester. There had been many available beach rental houses and I made appointments to explore them when I arrived in San Diego. As I have known that it would take some time to find an apartment I reserved hostels for a couple of nights. Hostelling International is the institution I would recommend. Staying there was also a good opportunity to meet other students who were looking for apartments as well.
4. On-site Organization
The first days had been quite overwhelming. I realized that it is absolutely necessary to have a car in the United States. Because of this reason I rented one with 3 other students. Furthermore I would recommend buying a prepaid mobile phone card. That made it easier to stay in contact with the apartment owners and other international students. Luckily, after visiting the first apartment, I had the chance to move there with the 3 other students I had been sharing the car. The best address for low-budget rental cars is a company called “Dirt Cheap Car Rental”. As you already expect the cars are quite old but in good condition and whenever you got a problem you can call them.
San Diego is a diversified American city and the best places to live are the areas of Pacific Beach or Mission Beach. Another popular place to stay is the college area where – of course – many students live. There are many campus accommodations like the “Piedra del Sol” and the “Alvarado apartments”. Another housing opportunity to stay is at a fraternity which is very popular for American students. But you have to apply early to get the possibility for campus housing. The beach house we rented was tiny but clean and right close to the beach. As the rents are quite expensive we decided to move in with 4 students. That is why I had a shared room for the time staying in San Diego. But the weather in California is mostly warm and sunny. Therefore it was no problem to spend a lot of the time outside the apartment. Furthermore grocery stores are not that cheap as they are in Germany. But big groceries offer special cards with which you get a discount on several products, e.g. Ralphs or Vons.
6. San Diego State University
The San Diego State University (SDSU) was established in 1897 and is the largest and oldest higher education institution in the San Diego area. The campus is located in the Northwest of San Diego. More than 30.000 students are enrolled at SDSU. The university awards about 85 types of Bachelor's degrees and about 75 different Master degrees.
The campus is huge and provides a large featured library with different study areas as well as a famous book store with flagship articles. Furthermore several food courts are located on the college district. Top-ranking programs in education, international business, social work, speech-language pathology, and biology, engineering and public administration are offered by SDSU. Especially for the business courses the San Diego State University is very popular.
Furthermore, the San Diego State University is very famous for athletics. Popular majors are football and basketball. Especially the basketball team reached and won multiple championships games in the past and is still famous in the college league of the United States. The university cooperates with the Mission Bay Aquatic Center and therefore also offers several watersports courses such as surfing, stand up paddling and sailing. Attending these classes is a good way to do sports outside and meet American students.
7. Course crashing
The Course crashing system is very popular in the United States. American students usually apply for their favorite courses by attending them and ask the professors to accept and sign the “Open University” sheets. Many courses are favored and crowded. This makes the first days of a new semester quite exhausting. After a specific timeline, the students can drop the courses they are not interested in attending anymore. Finally each student needs to be enrolled in 12 units in total.
Many international students had been accepted for the Fall Semester 2012. As the American students take priority in crashing courses it was a bit difficult to find the right ones. After a couple of weeks spending time at the campus I finally had three management classes, one surfing course and several language courses:
MGT 350 Management and Organizational Behavior
MGT 352 Human Resource Management
Both of these courses were Special Sessions, which were established because of the huge quantity of international students. Therefore many Germans and Scandinavians were enrolled in these sessions. The other classes I was enrolled in were:
MGT 453 Creativity & Innovation
ENS 146 Surfing
Language Courses regarding Advanced Business Writing, Understanding American Film and English through Dance
8. Course description
MGT 350 Management and Organizational Behavior included the dealing with Human behavior at individual, interpersonal, and group levels including the effect of organization structure on employee behavior. More detailed topics had been Job Satisfaction, Emotions and Moods, Communication, Leadership, Conflict and Negotiation and Organizational Culture. This course contained a group work project with 5 international students regarding “Cost-efficient communication”, a midterm and a final at the end of the semester.
MGT 352 Human Resource Management had topics such as Human Resource Planning, Equal Employment Opportunity, Job Analysis and Job Design, Employee Selection as well as Training and Development and Managing Compensation. All of these issues were discussed beyond an international background. Furthermore a group work project with 5 international students was included concerning “Employee motivation” and as usual we had to take a midterm and a final exam.
MGT 453 Creativity & Innovation was an Open University Course in which I had been one of only three international students. That was a challenge and helped me a lot to integrate into the American study society. Topics of this subject were the role of creativity and innovation in organizations, idea evaluation as well as creative collaboration in teams and creating a climate for creativity. Furthermore we dealt with innovation traps and discussed how to avoid them. During the semester we heard several guest speakers talking about their business and often watched film examples for managing creativity successfully. As the course title already says this class was very creative. The curriculum included four quizzes, a within-industry company analysis group presentation and write-up, an application pitch presentation and memo. Furthermore we had to pass a midterm and a final. The within-industry company analysis group work was very interesting. My group consisted of 5 students and our subject was to interview local wine bars how the manage creativity and innovation. The application pitch presentation was a different challenge in which we had to prepare a new creative concept and convince the classmates that this innovation would be useful.
ENS 146 Surfing is one of the watersports courses offered by the university collaborating with the Mission Bay Aquatic Center. Besides the surfing lessons with surf instructors we had to take the midterm and final exam.
9. Free time/travelling
There are many different activities to do in your free time around San Diego County. The Balboa Park is an urban cultural park having different gardens like the Japanese Friendship Garden as well as interesting museums. The world-famous San Diego Zoo is also integrated in this park. Another activity recommendation is the USS Midway museum, located in the center of San Diego. The museum consists of the aircraft carrier and contains several small airplanes. Downtown San Diego is a good place for shopping and outgoing. The famous Gaslamp Quarter is located right in the center.
San Diego is one of the best Mediterranean Sea climates in America. That makes watersports like surfing and stand up paddling very attractive. Especially in the summer months the beaches are crowded. The boardwalk in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach is the best place for renting skateboards and beachcruisers. SeaWorld San Diego is also a nice theme park attraction having water animals such as dolphins, killer whales, mantas and beluga whales. The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a coastal state park close to San Diego. The reserve consists of a plateau with cliffs that overlook Torrey Pines State Beach and has many different kinds of wildlife and flora. Coronado Island is an affluent resort city where you can get over the large bridge from Downtown San Diego. The beach is ranked as one of the best beaches of the United States and there is the traditional Hotel del Coronado. In winter time you can go Ice-skating close the beach. As San Diego is close to the Mexican border you can feel the Mexican influence. Burritos, Fajitas and Tacos are sold everywhere.
Interesting destinations in the surrounding area are Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas. It is easy to go there by car or you can look for cheap domestic flights.
10. Comments after the semester abroad
Regarding the organization I was supported by college contact, a German institution managing several semester abroad locations. They sent me a checklist how to prepare and helped with the application process.
It was an exciting experience spending a semester so far away from home and managing the courses, an apartment and a car myself. In this time I have grown-up and became more self-dependent and confident. But there was always a contact person from the American Language Institute on the campus to ask for any concern. The course crashing system provided challenges. It was not easy to get the courses I wanted and maybe this process could be facilitated for international students as they are not used to this type of adding classes.
In conclusion I really liked spending a semester abroad. It was a great experience to get to know a different culture and meet Americans as well as other exchange students from several countries. This time encouraged me in being open-minded and interested in other conventions.
Although it was difficult at the start, I would recommend studying in San Diego. The campus as well as the city and the whole state of California are interesting to explore.